Vandalism at the North Fork Recreation Area near Dora, also known as Hammond Access, put a blemish on nearly complete renovations and, if it happens again, could stall the planned 2019 season reopening, said District Ranger Cody Lunsford with Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs (ACW).

Lunsford said after Memorial Day weekend, vandalism and property damage were discovered at the site 16 miles west of West Plains on CC Highway.

“New asphalt was spray painted with graffiti within 24 hours of paving, gates were smashed and other harassing information posted around the recreation area,” Lunsford reported. District employees began immediately to make repairs.

As a result of the damage  Forest Service and Ozark County law enforcement have increased patrols in the area, said Lunsford. Anyone with information regarding this or other illegal activities at the North Fork Recreation Area is asked to contact the ACW Ranger District at 417-683-4428.

The Forest Service signed a decision in May 2015 initiating a project to build a new upstream access at North Fork on the same side of the river as the existing access, under the leadership of past District Ranger Joe Koloski. The document is available for review at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45310.  

The purpose of the project is to increase public safety and reduce conflicts among recreationists by separating water play and water craft activities, explained Lunsford.  

“We appreciate the public’s patience with this project, as it has experienced several unforeseen setbacks to its original timeline,” said Lunsford. “The 2017 flood put the project behind schedule and it resulted in contract design changes and reprioritizing work to be completed first in the day-use area of the site.”

He added that wet weather last winter and this spring has also caused construction delays. The goal remains to reopen the original day-use area in the 2019 season, and he said that is expected to happen soon.

 “Additional instances of vandalism could affect the current efforts to open the site, resulting in more delays,” Lunsford cautioned.

Contractors have completed paving the day-use area.

Before opening the day-use area work, that remains includes letting the asphalt cure, striping lanes and parking areas, and installing traffic control devices. A timeline for the work to be completed on the boat launch and campground is yet to be finalized as it is highly dependent on the weather; but efforts will continue to be made to get as much done as quickly as possible, said Lunsford.

Lunsford said has been keeping outfitter and guides, county officials and other elected officials apprised on progress of the project. The district will also continue to provide updates on Facebook, @MarkTwainNationalForest, and the Mark Twain National Forest website, www.fs.usda.gov/mtnf.  

For more information contact Lunsford at 417-683-4428 or email cody.lunsford@usda.gov.

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